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Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter Steps Down

NEW YORK, December 21, 2017 — The founder of pizza chain giant Papa John’s, John Schnatter announced he is leaving his position as chief executive officer.  Schnatter will stay on as board chairman. It’s still unclear why he stepped down.

John Schnatter has been one of the most recognizable names in fast food. However, he ran into controversy when he blamed the NFL players’ kneeling during the national anthem on the company’s declining sales. Papa John’s has also faced waning sales recently. The company’s stock price is down more than 30% so far this year. Papa John’s is one of the NFL’s top sponsors.  Schnatter got into hot water during a conference call with investors, when he said: “This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.”

The pizza giant faced backlash on social media and Schnatter was criticized by those who believe the players were exercising free speech.  John Schnatter has been one of the last CEOs to act as their brand’s advertising pitchman, a list that included KFC’s Col. Harland Sanders and Wendy’s CEO Dave Thomas. Papa John’s is the nation’s third-largest pizza chain and has more than 5,000 locations world wide.  Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie will replace John Schnatter on Jan. 1. Ritchie announced that new ads would begin airing next year and that Papa John’s has no plans to remove John from advertising.

Schnatter founded Papa John’s 30 years ago. Schnatter has been the face of the company, appearing in TV ads with former football player Peyton Manning.  Ritchie started at Papa John’s 21 years ago and later became a franchise owner in 2006 and currently owns nine locations.  Schnatter previously stepped down in 2005, but later returned in 2008.  Papa John’s said that Schnatter plans to pursue his  “personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education.”

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